Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spotting Spotty (part 1)

The Spotted Wood Kingfisher is one of the more colorful birds that I have come across in the past three and a half years.  I first became aware of it in late 2013 when said bird appeared at the La Mesa Ecopark and stayed for several months.  It would perch for long minutes beside the trail allowing the many photographers who trooped to LMEP, close and eye-popping captures.  Except me, it seems.  I saw the bird in LMEP twice in October 2013 and once in January 2014.  All close distances but somehow non of my shots were "exhibit" quality.  They were okay but not good enough to be framed. I again saw Spotty again in October 2015 while guiding a group of foreign bird photographers but sadly same results.  In November 2015, during the APEC break, I saw the female Spotty in Mabitac, Laguna but again, I was not happy with the results.  

When Jonas Liwag, a birder friend started posting his shots of the Spotted Wood Kingfisher in the UP Diliman campus, I got excited because I am in UP-D practically everyday so I felt I would finally be able to get a good photo.  I started looking for it on January 26 but no luck.  Same results on January 27, 28, and February 1.  Went to Coron for a short trip on February 2 to 5. On February 8, Chinese New Year, I was back in UP where I bumped into several bird photographers at the parking lot frequented by the Blue Rock Thrush. 

From left: Sean Melendres, Jonas Liwag, Ben Go, myself, Conrad Olayres, Ed Santos, Djop Tabaranza, Tony Lim, Caloy Pangilinan and Ven Rojas (photo courtesy of Ven Rojas).

As usual, the Blu Rock Thrush didn't disappoint. 

BRT posing on one of the chimneys

BRT on a natural perch for a change

Then the guard called our attention to a Philippine Pygmy Flowerpecker which was boring a hole in a tree at the edge of the parking lot allowing us to have close captures.  

Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, boring a hole

The bird stayed busy oblivious of our presence that I was even able to do my first bird video.
Video of a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker in action

After shooting the Pygmy, we went separate ways.  Ed, Djop and I went to the Scops Owl area where we saw the adult owl but it was hidden behind so many twigs. 

Then Spotty made an appearance and we were busy for the next thirty minutes or so.  I was able to get many decent shots but when Djop and Ed posted theirs on Facebook later that day, I found my shots not as nice in terms of sharpness.  I am not sure if it was my technique, or my settings, or my gear.  I did have a loose screw on my tripod which made it a bit wobbly. Whatever the case, though my shots were good, I was not fully satisfied because I felt they could be better. Sharing some of them. 

Spotted Wood Kingfisher (male)

After Spotty, we were able to photograph the baby Scops Owls although there were no clear shots.

Baby Philippine Scops Owl

Just as we were about to call it a day, another bird showed up. My first lifer for 2016! Unfortunately, it burrowed itself in a dark thicket that it was also difficult to shoot, especially with a wobbly tripod.  Conrad identifed it as a Brush Cuckoo.
Brush Cuckoo

After getting a stiff neck with the owls and the cuckoo, we decided to call it a day...

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